A good school board compromise?

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Thoughts On Issues Relating To Anne Arundel County

April 03, 2005

Last week's question: Anne Arundel County delegates recently changed gears on the question of elected school boards, backing a compromise introduced by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat.

Instead of asking voters to pick from among the current system and two alternatives, the new proposal would have a county commission nominate board members as seats become vacant starting in 2007. The governor would appoint the members, who would run unopposed in the next general election. This would mirror the method used to select judges for the state's highest courts. It represents a bipartisan compromise between delegates who favored direct elections and those concerned about impeding minority representation.

Currently, a nominating convention forwards the names of candidates to the governor, who makes the final picks but is not compelled to choose from the convention's selections.

Your view: Should the General Assembly back the new proposal for picking school board members?

Safeguards built into compromise

I have long supported having the county executive select school board members, subject to confirmation by the County Council, and do not believe the governor should play a role in a selection process that rightfully belongs at the local level. The legislative compromise that has passed the House of Delegates is, however, a positive step in the right direction, because the county executive has two appointments to the Nominating Commission and, more importantly, the approval/retention elections provided in the bill offer an important opportunity for direct voter input. This input will occur at every general election and will ensure that nominees will be carefully scrutinized by the Nominating Commission, as well as by the public at large.

Another important provision of this legislation should be noted. HB 625 mandates the governor to make school board selections from the list submitted to him by the commission. This is an important change from the existing law, which allows the governor to select someone not on the list. The governor could reject all the names on the list and ask the commission to submit a new list of names, but he must select someone who is on a list submitted by the commission.

The Anne Arundel House delegation has worked hard to craft a creative and effective legislative solution, and it is my hope that the Senate will concur with the House action.

Del. John R. Leopold

Annapolis

Board must be more responsive

We are in favor of the new General Assembly proposal for picking school board members as it is better than the unresponsive system we now have. The Anne Arundel County Alliance for Fair Land Use has argued for a system that makes the school board members accountable.

Currently, we have 10,000 empty seats in the system and the result is that the county has closed down residential development in 75 percent of the county. This hurts workforce housing and the middle class. The school board does not count portables and elementary schools don't count rooms that provide art, music and resource classes. Does this make any sense?

We have argued that the school board sell its old Annapolis Board of Education property on Green Street that is severely underutilized to provide millions for our teachers and others who are on the front line of education. We have also argued that the valuable property on Fort Smallwood Road be sold to provide cash or as a school site. When I asked a school board member about this, he replied that a sale of surplus property would give money directly to Anne Arundel County, not the school board. Duh! The school board gets 100 percent of its funding from the county.

We would prefer to see a system where those that provide the funding are directly responsible for the schools. We wanted to see a school board selected by the county executive and approved by the County Council. Some may say that is too political, but guess what: If the schools do not perform, the county executive and County Council get voted out of office. What an incentive to do a nonpartisan good job!

John Pantelides

A.A. County Alliance for Fair Land Use Annapolis

Board members should face voters

While I prefer the directly elected school board, this is a move in the right direction because school board members will face the voters at some point. One-half of county tax monies support the Board of Education, an agency where there is limited oversight. It is also the agency entrusted with educating our future. There should be more accountability. More than any other agency, the school board should be accountable to our citizens, instead of functioning as if it were some sort of independent government. Accountability will occur with selection by election, not by an appointment.

Pamela Bukowski

Annapolis

`Golden opportunity' to reform process

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